Writing Insecurity: The PRC’s Push to Modernize China and the Politics of Uighur Identity

Scott Fogden. “Writing Insecurity: The PRC’s Push to Modernize China and the Politics of Uighur Identity”. Issues & Studies 39, no. 3. 2003.


This article highlights tensions between the PRC’s modernization program – assessed alongside a rising tide of Chinese nationalism – and the interests of Uighur communities. While critiquing accepted notions of identity and culture, the article illustrates how national and sub-national narratives are activated in ways that undermine both the state’s integrity and the security of Uighurs and their communities.


”Writing Insecurity” puts forward a framework for looking at identity politics in Xinjiang. This framework posits that the PRC’s modernization program is in conflict with the interests of the Uighur nationality, rendering insecure both the people of Xinjiang and the state’s integrity. The PRC’s push to modernize China comprises a blend of material and ideational developments, especially dynamic in the post-Mao era. For Xinjiang’s Uighur minority, development has relocated much of the region’s resource wealth to urban centers in the east and permitted a massive influx of Han Chinese migration. Furthermore, and despite rising tides of Chinese nationalism, development has not exclusively consolidated Chinese national sentiments. Revitalizing the Silk Road has also re-established cultural ties between Muslim minorities and Central Asian, Turkic, and Middle Eastern centers. Perhaps the most oft cited security-political dynamic of the contemporary era is the concurrent dilution and multiplication of competing cultural loyalties. This article seeks to contribute to a body of literature that criticizes accepted notions of identity and culture, while exploring these as a motivating force in the case of Uighur resistance to China’s modernization project.


Keywords: Uyghur, Security, Securitization, Terrorism, Identity, Modernization, Nationalism